My Bipolar Disorder is a Secret…at Work


 

CJ Laymon, who writes under a pseudonym, shares his experiences in The Atlantic as he “like millions of other Americans” (Laymon, 2013) finds it difficult to find health insurance because of his mental illness. Surprisingly, the most frustrating thing about his situation is not the insurance. He is given the option to pay $675 dollars a month for at least 18 months, which he notes is a much better option than many others. Although Laymon is a 26-year-old who does “preventative screenings like clockwork,” , “the most frustrating part is that he can count on one hand the number of people who know about [his] mental illness” (Laymon, 2013). Laymon has Bipolar II/ADHD and the stigma that surrounds mental health in general is suffocating.

Although his illness is a huge part of his daily life, he does not feel comfortable talking about it with friends or family and definitely not with his boss or colleagues.  His daily routine includes shopping for the perfect mix of medications, managing their side effects, and going to weekly therapy in order to keep his illness a secret. At work, he sneaks into the kitchen or bathroom to take morning and afternoon medications and monthly visits to his psychiatrist during lunch, if a meeting or conference call doesn’t come up.

Lymon has a very coveted job in a highly desired industry and is in top rankings in his position. He feels as though if he shows “the slightest weakness” (Laymon, 2013), it would hurt his chances of getting a promotion. But, why do we see mental illness as a weakness? In all his experiences, he never once has heard another colleague openly mention dealing with a mental illness. During his first hypomanic episode, his first priority was to make sure no one saw a difference in his work. Even when he was too sick to go in, his fear of possible repercussions kept him from taking a medical leave of absence. And still, his goal was to make sure no one knew about his illness. Laymon has never let his mental health affect his performance, but he still feels as though he cannot tell anyone.

Once he tried to slightly reach out to a close colleague and told her about the ADHD part of his diagnosis and faced an unexpected response: “Whatever, you just love taking Adderall.” This left Laymon “scared of people treating [him] differently and of [his] boss feeling like [he’s] less capable of doing his job…When [he goes] to work dinners, it’s awkward not to partake in the expensive bottles of wine going around—[he] often end up drinking at least one glass, even knowing that it could set off a hypomanic or depressive episode.” (Laymon, 2013)

Balancing his life around secrecy and managing his illness creates stress that adds to his symptoms. It would be great if he could discuss his illness with his boss or human resources to take precautions and lessen his stress resulting in better work output, but the fear that his job is at risk prevents this. If companies treated mental illnesses like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, it would make illnesses more manageable.   

Laymon, celebrities such as  Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Bipolar Celebrities) and many more individuals around the world should not have to hide their mental illness at work or any social institution. We need to change social culture and accept the idea of a mental illness instead of stigmatizing it.     

References:

Bipolar Celebrities: Does It Make Them More Creative? (n.d.). Retrieved April 03, 2016, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307117_2,00.html

Laymon, C. (2013, August 22). Why I Keep My Bipolar Disorder Secret at Work. Retrieved March 21, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/why-i-keep-my-bipolar-disorder-secret-at-work/278931/

 

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